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Major differences revealed in how local authorities in the UK support disabled people
Date:9/19/2007

Diverse local authority policies and practices throughout the UK are making big differences to the uptake and operation of direct payments a system for supporting people who are receiving community care by enabling them to purchase their own care. New research from the Economic and Social Research Council reveals that direct payments are being operated, and experienced, very differently in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Direct payments are funds paid by local authorities directly to disabled people, and other community care service users, to buy-in their own support, usually this takes the form of employing personal care assistants.

The payments, first introduced in 1997, have been controversial. Some have seen them as a covert means of privatising the delivery of public sector services, whilst for others they represent an important means of empowering those at the margins, of society by involving them as co-producers of their services.

The research team, led by Professor Sheila Riddell of Edinburgh University, found:

  • The uptake of direct payments varied greatly between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In 2003-04, they found a total of 18 authorities making no use whatsoever of direct payments - of these, 11 were in Scotland, five in Wales and two in Northern Ireland. In England, all local authorities used direct payments. In some parts of Scotland, on the other hand, union resistance, and the identification of direct payments with creeping privatisation, has had a negative effect on their uptake. Throughout the UK, in areas with low take-up of direct payments, there was evidence of professional, managerial and local political resistance.

  • Local factors play a key role. The local culture of welfare, and the relationship between support organisations and local authorities, are important in either promoting, or inhibiting, the uptake of direct payments. Local auth
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Contact: Danielle Moore
danielle.moore@esrc.ac.uk
01-793-413-312
Economic & Social Research Council
Source:Eurekalert

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